No artist can have a perfect string of albums forever. Even if you have some of the greatest musicians in your band and songs that hit like a sledgehammer, you’re never going to capture lightning in a bottle every time you go into the studio, and some of the biggest stars in the world tend to have those few albums that just don’t hit the mark.
You don’t expect them to strike out that often, but when they do come up short, it can be an absolute train wreck. Out of all of the incredible albums that each of these artists have put out in their time (and their have been many killer ones), these are the albums that came up far short.
There’s more that goes into an album than just bad songs though, and some of these ended up getting bogged down by studios trying to get in the way of things, the producer steering them in the wrong direction, or a combination of all of them at the same time. Even if there are a few salvageable tracks on the project, that doesn’t stop the rest of the album from being the low point that the band has put out. While most of these bands were able to bounce back after, this was a moment in time where they lost their footing.
St. Anger – Metallica
No amount of music industry BS was ever going to get in Metallica’s way. After spending years as kings of the metal underground, their journey into the mainstream turned the genre into a household name, with people getting on the Metallica hype train and discovering everything that metal had to offer.
Behind the scenes though, the band was in shambles, and you can hear that pain all over St. Anger. Compared to the more edgy sounds of nu metal that were happening at the time, hearing James Hetfield at his wit’s end on here is hard to listen to as a metal fan, bringing some of the worst riffs he’s ever committed to tape and pushing himself way too far out of his range on songs like “Frantic” and “The Unnamed Feeling.”
If we’re talking about the raw sound of the record though, there’s no getting around the snare, which sounds like an industrial sized garbage can hitting you over the head every time you hear it. While they may have been going for a different sound here, having no guitar solos in the mix almost feels like the opposite of what a Metallica record should be, trying to tap into their more angsty side and just looking like a bunch of rock stars trying to fit in with what the kids were doing these days.
The rest of the band (for the most part) have stood by St. Anger in the years since its release though, saying that it helped them reconcile with each other and come out on the other side. Master of Puppets may have been made to capture the spirit of the band and The Black Album may have been made to make them rock stars, but St. Anger feels like it was made just because it had to get done.
The Path of Totality – Korn
Korn were never meant to stay the angry nu metal kids for the rest of their days. Even though you could classify both their debut, Life Is Peachy and Follow the Leader as some of the leaders of the nu metal movement, moving into the ‘00s saw them playing with a much more eclectic mix of styles, like bringing in different pop producers to get new sounds out of them like “Twisted Transistor.”
Most metal heads might have been uneasy seeing the band branch out, but chances are no one was ready for the day when Jonathan Davis’s voice was fed through a blown out dubstep speaker. Out of all the records in the Korn catalog, The Path of Totality occupies a weird sonic space, jumping on the dubstep bandwagon happening at the time and bringing in producers like Skrillex to make some sort of dub metal hybrid sound.
All of these experiments had the potential to be a great single release, but the fact that we have an entire album of this stuff starts to wear out its welcome fairly quickly, where you can barely hear Fieldy’s bass over the beat drops and those organic screams that we loved from songs like “Blind” being replaced by different chopped up bits of audio that sounds like a robot trying to sound angsty for the first time.
Korn might be a band that’s known for doing whatever the hell they want, and we do respect that, but even some of the most open minded metal heads weren’t awaiting the day when they went electronic.
Chinese Democracy – Guns N’ Roses
There was a good chance that nothing Axl Rose put out with Chinese Democracy was going to be able to live up to its expectations. This was an album that had already been in development hell for years and spending multiple millions of dollars and countless session musicians made fans even more hungry to see what this new iteration of Guns N’ Roses would be.
Once we had the album in front of us, this was not Guns N’ Roses…this was the Axl Rose and Friends show. Compared to the street level of Appetite for Destruction, Chinese Democracy really feels like a record that was labored over for the better part of a decade, with vocal performances where you can clearly hear Axl’s vocals aging throughout the years.
Even though there are a few points where you can start to hear that old school Guns N’ Roses swagger again like on “Shackler’s Revenge,” you have to end up slogging through some of the most forgettable songs that the band would ever release like “Scraped,” which sounds like it could have been an outtake from the Use Your Illusion sessions on a day when Axl was drunk in the studio.
With a roster of different guitar players like Buckethead and Bumblefoot in the mix as well, the entire album feels more like a collection of songs than a fully fleshed out record, and still sounding unfinished in spots with Axl’s vocals cracking and underwritten verses. Chinese Democracy might have its place in rock history as one of the most long-winded album releases ever made, but we probably would have looked at this record a lot more fondly if it never actually came out.
Generation Swine –Mötley Crüe
No hair metal band had any real business showing their face on the charts after 1991. The time for big hair and spandex pants had fallen by the wayside, and the alternative generation was now in full swing with acts like Pearl Jam and Nirvana tearing up the charts. Mötley Crüe may have been willing to change with the times, but bringing Vince Neil back into the fray for Generation Swine was almost destined to fail from the moment it started.
Before any music had been recorded, Vince was already not willing to go with the program, not feeling welcome back in the band and half of the material already written by his replacement John Corabi. Instead of trying to stick with a certain style though, what turns up on here is the band trying to do every genre they can think of at the exact same time, sounding like a Marilyn Manson industrial song one minute and then transitioning back into their sleaze rock tendencies on the next track.
Embracing the more electronic sounds of the time, Mick Mars’s guitars are also buried for half the record, taking the bluesy swagger out of their sound and replacing it with a discount sequencer. It even feels a little bit sacrilege on “Shout at the Devil ‘97,” taking the classic from back in their glam days and turning it into a discount version of a White Zombie song, with Vince Neil’s snotty vocals not working at all.
Mötley Crüe has always worked best when they actually sounded like themselves, and hearing them trying to do their best Nine Inch Nails impression on here just feels shallow next to Dr. Feelgood.
You’re Welcome – A Day to Remember
There’s more that goes into making a great album than just the musicians in the band. You have to fight tooth and nail just to get some of your greatest projects off the ground, and your record label is going to do everything they can to try and keep you in your place. Sometimes you have to stick to your guns, but more often than not you get records like You’re Welcome.
While A Day To Remember always had a little bit of pop punk trailing back into their metalcore style, signing with Fueled By Ramen was the kiss of death for a lot of fans, especially when their collaboration with Marshmello surfaced before the album even dropped.
After regaining their independence on their last few projects, this feels like the biggest sell out that the band could have made, kicking the door down with a bang on tracks like “Brick Wall” before immediately switching to the sounds of Top 40 material, almost verging on country music on tracks like “Everything We Need.”
After spending their last few projects playing the music that they had loved as kids, You’re Welcome is about as cynical as it gets for a band like A Day To Remember, choosing to cash in rather than push themselves forward creatively. There’s still a decent band hidden in this album somewhere, but they are in for an uphill battle getting their metalhead fans back into the fray on the next project.
Turbo – Judas Priest
Throughout metal history, Judas Priest may be one of the few bands who can really claim to have seen it all. Claiming the genre for themselves when bands like Black Sabbath were paving the way, Priest found their congregation while changing the metal landscape, going from the hard edged blues rock of something like Sad Wings of Destiny to hanging with the new kids on the block like Iron Maiden on tracks off of Screaming for Vengeance.
Towards the mid ‘80s though, the order of the day was hair metal, and Priest’s attempts at radio rock might be one of the most unintentionally hilarious moves in metal history. Looking to get songs that could be blasted over the radio like “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin,” a lot of Turbo feels like a parody version of what Priest were doing back in the day, with the screaming guitars of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton being replaced by synthesized guitar parts that sounded painfully dated these days.
In between some of the more dated ‘80s kitsch, Rob Halford isn’t necessarily at his best either, laying into his lower register on the track “Turbo Lover” and a new haircut that looked like he was trying to compete with the likes of David Coverdale from Whitesnake. Outside of the hairstyles though, Priest’s attempts at power pop were never really their strong suit, and there’s an overabundance on this record that you have to slog through, especially with the lame lyrics of a song like “Wild Nights Hot and Crazy Days.”
Priest have always stood out as the true defenders of all things metal, but this is one of the first albums they made that sounded closer to an REO Speedwagon record than anything remotely heavy.
Scream – Chris Cornell
At the start of the ‘00s, Chris Cornell was ready for something a lot more experimental than just grunge. With Soundgarden breaking up and fresh off of making some more hits with Audioslave, Cornell was testing out spaces within his own voice, seeing where his strengths were and wanting to try some new styles he hadn’t thought of before. No matter how he sings though, the song comes before anything else, and we got something disastrous when Cornell decided working with Timbaland was a good idea.
While Scream features a lot of what made Cornell so irresistible to rock fans, that kind of wail doesn’t really fit with the same kind of smooth pop rock that shows up on here, almost like Cornell is trying his best to sound like a hard edged version of Justin Timberlake in some spots.
Outside of a handful of decent songs on here, most of the record seems more like Chris trying to launch himself into the pop world, while also still trying to sound the same way he did when he was singing tracks like “Spoonman” back in the day. Along with the guitars taking a back seat a lot of the time in the mix, the digital effects on this project also don’t work in the slightest, turning one of the greatest voices in rock history into a shell of what it once was.
For all of the styles that he might try to cut his teeth in, Chris Cornell’s voice almost exists in a world by itself, and that world had no business being in the same area as the Nelly Furtado’s of the world, in our humble opinion.
One More Light – Linkin Park
When doing press for their album The Hunting Party, Mike Shinoda had started to mention how much rock and roll had seemed to have lost its balls. You can see his point in a lot of ways too, with a lot of bands around that time going electronic and Linkin Park bringing things back to the Hybrid Theory levels of heavy on songs like “Guilty All the Same.” It looked like we were going to be in for a career renaissance from them, but One More Light sounds like they forget everything they learned on their last record.
Throwing away the sound of rock and roll altogether, this is a glorified pop album that just happens to be filtered through the Linkin Park lens, with hardly any guitar to speak of on a lot of tracks. Although there are some decent moments on tracks like “Nobody Can Save Me” and “Sorry For Now,” the rest of the album tends to feel more in line with the Chainsmokers than anything close to nu metal, with Mike and Chester trading verses and sounding absolutely out of their element.
For all of the drama surrounding this album when it came out, no one was really prepared for what the next few months would be like, with Chester being found dead in between legs of the tour and fans dissecting this album as a final cry for help from him leading up to his passing.
The sentiment of some of these lyrics might hit a little bit closer to home knowing what we know now, but no amount of heartbreaking backstory makes this album anything more than Linkin Park filler.
Risk – Megadeth
90% of Megadeth’s career has always been about chasing down the trail that Metallica had started. Dave Mustaine was never going to go quietly after he got kicked out, and he always strove to make the exact same career that Metallica had, only 10 times better.
That meant seeing a resurgence in the ‘90s, but that also meant stepping into Metallica’s problems as well on albums like Risk. Looking to capture the same kind of chart appeal that his old band was seeing with The Black Album, Risk might be the most pop-centric album ever released by one of the Big 4. Working with pop producer Dann Huff, a lot of this record consists of a bunch of decent choruses that are strung together with absolute nonsense after the fact.
While something like an electric violin on the track “Insomnia” is a nice touch, hearing Mustaine’s snarling metal voice doesn’t match well with these songs at all, almost sounding like a supervillain in some knockoff superhero TV show on songs like “Crush Em.”
Dave had mentioned that this album would have sold if Megadeth’s name wasn’t attached to it, but it takes more than just name recognition to have an entire fanbase turn on you. Here was a band looking to write their own version of something like “We Will Rock You” and coming up with songs that even Steel Panther would find a little bit much.
Concrete and Gold – Foo Fighters
No Foo Fighters record has ever been considered bad because of any lack of enthusiasm. Dave Grohl was never a musician who would half ass anything, and the entire process behind everything from The Colour and the Shape to In Your Honor felt like the band was giving 110% every time they went into the studio.
After something as daring as Sonic Highways though, Concrete and Gold was nowhere near the standards that we were expecting out of the new era of the Foo Fighters. While there are some great singles on here like “Run” and “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” the rest of the record feels more like a parody of what the Foos were so good at in their prime, sounding closer to the more bloated stadium rockers of the ‘70s than the lean rock machine that they were back in the days of “Everlong.”
Even though working with pop wizard Greg Kurstin may have been an interesting choice, the whole album tends to feel pretty slipshot as a result, taking two musicians that are working a little out of their depth and forcing them to make something that makes sense.
Although there are a few interesting moments on the record like Justin Timberlake singing on the song “Make It Right,” it’s not enough to really save the rest of the record either, sounding closer to a pastiche of what rock and roll was supposed to be back in the day. The Foo Fighters may have given us some of the best rock and roll of the past decade, but this was the first album where they came dangerously close to going into full dad mode behind the mic.